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social divide.

October 20, 2009

Probably due to where I grew up and where I went to school and where I live now, I don’t really think too hard about social divides. Not to say I don’t recognize that they exist, I just don’t have any active desire to get rid of them. So when those same groupings start happening online, I’m inclined to just go along with it there too. The hope that the Internet would be an equalizer is a bit too idealistic today. There’s nothing about the online world that would force users to behave differently than they do offline. So why is it news that social divides exist online?

It should be no surprise that Facebook and MySpace have a class/race divide. Facebook started at an Ivy League school. It then opened up to other colleges and universities. Guess what groups of people were most likely to use Facebook as their social network? And maybe, just maybe, being closed to everyone but college kids might have contributed to Facebook users often having more education than the typical MySpace user? Although these social networks are open to everyone, the influence of the original target audience is a huge factor in the final audience.

And that’s because we gravitate towards people similar to ourselves. That’s why you can predict gender based off your browser history. Females and males visit different site. From the article, the researcher labels MySpace users as “burnouts’, punks, or alternative-scene teenagers whose parents likely didn’t go beyond a high school education”. So why, if I’m a straight-laced, career-focused, rich kid, would those people be the ones I would associate with online? I guarantee those aren’t going to be the people I hang out with in real life either. And they probably don’t want to hang out with me. It’s not a bad thing to surround yourself with people of similar interest and ambitions. We don’t all have to be friends.

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5 comments

  1. The real question is why this is news on CNET when I heard about this 1 – 2 years ago.

    But back to your point – I think it also may go a bit further than the fact that Facebook started with colleges only (although that’s the BIGGEST reason for the divide). Facebook started off way more elegant than MySpace. MySpace opened up HTML to people who were not ready to deal with it while Facebook kept people from creating such garish pages with horrible music that started when you first showed up there. And even when FB got cluttered, it still wasn’t that bad compared to MySpace.

    Also, FB started with a very different focus when I joined. It showed me who else was in my classes so I could find people to talk about class with. Eventually that factor disappeared as did the social network map – my favorite part of FB. If it had originally been like MySpace, I would have never joined. I saw MySpace as a site for people who were too clueless to even have a Geocities website.


    • In my opinion, Facebook is more elegant because it had a different audience than MySpace. This may be due to the fact that, as you point out, it was to network people, not be their personality in a website. In my mind, MySpace seem more focused on you (creating a personal webiste with the benefits of a social network), while Facebook is more about you as seen by others (creating a first impression for your network). Personally, I still think MySpace is a better place for bands than Facebook because band sites should have more personal touches.

      I also think the original audience also contributed to the design differences of MySpace and Facebook. Excuse my stereotyping – but in many personal aspects (clothes, accessories, hair, etc.), I think there’s a tendency for the upper/upper middle class to be significantly more subdued (or boring?) than others. I rarely see people from my hometown walking around with rhinestones on their jeans and fake inch-long nails. So I guess it’s a question of whether the design attracted the audience or whether the audience led to the design. I’m inclined to think the latter.


      • I agree with the first paragraph.

        As for the second paragraph, it may vary geographically. My high school where my middle-class butt was almost the poorest person (most people got audis for their 16th bday) had a huge amount of proto-emo kids with the requisite hair/clothes and also a huge amount of white, jewish guys acting like they were black guys from the projects.

        In fact, a lot of times, well off neighborhoods in the middle of nowhere tend to have kids making a point of rebelling in weird ways because they don’t have any actual strife in their lives.


      • Sure, you’ll always be able to find people with (in my opinion) questionable fashion sense/mannerisms. But, at least in my experience, the rebellious kids in upper class areas (emos, goths, gangstas, and hipsters) are still upper class. They might be dressing and acting out of what they see as ordinary, but I bet you anything they’ll still gravitate toward whatever they seem to be rebelling against because that’s what they’re comfortable with (and because they know being upper class isn’t really all that bad). So if you gave them the choice of where they want to be and who they want to associate with, they’ll probably pick the boring suburban kids despite how they dress.


      • Very good point. I doubt any of them would have known what to do if dropped in that situation.



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